Christian name’s not Diggum, but that’s what most folks around here call me. Doubt anybody remembers the man I used to be. You ask ‘em who that old stooped over fella is mopin’ around the cemetery, that’s what they’ll tell you. “That’s Diggum,” they’ll say. “He’s the caretaker.” Most of ‘em don’t know much more than that. Not anymore. Not in these hurry up and rush-around days.
Hell, it’s a wonder anybody ever notices me at all anymore. If they’re not flying by me at ninety miles an hour on the highway then they have their faces buried in those glowin’ little smarty pants phones they all carry around now. Heh. If they happen to be drivin’ while they’re lookin’ at them things—well, I reckon I’ll be the one buryin’ their faces before too long.
I’d be buryin’ their faces if there was room left in this old boneyard to do that, anyway. See, this is an old cemetery, and there ain’t but one plot in it without a marker now. That one’s mine. I claimed it back when I first got this gig in, oh, I guess it’s been about forty years. There was a whole lot more community around here and a whole lot fewer wrinkles on this old face back in them days. Sure enough.
There was work when a man needed it back then, too. And boy did I need it. It wasn’t then like it is now, where everybody’s gotta have a job with some adventure or upward mobility or lifestyle accommodation in it, or however the young-uns are puttin’ it these days. It ain’t enough anymore for ‘em to just find a way to make ends meet. They gotta be excited by what they’re doin’. What is that word they use, anyway? Fulfillin’. That’s it. It’s gotta be fulfillin’ work. Back in my day, you just wanted to find some way to keep food on your table and put clothes on your back, shoes on your feet. Well, that’s the way it was down here in the little town of Lost Hollow anyway. I guess up in bigger cities they cared about upward mobility. It was the Reagan era, after all. Around here it was mostly all small farmers and people who commuted to their factory jobs one town over.
Ends meetin’ is exactly what I was lookin’ for when I strolled into this little town back then. Sure enough. Lost my wife, my kid, and everything I had in a fire on this little farm I had just west of here. Didn’t have no fancy insurance on any of that. Wasn’t no going back there and rebuildin’ either, not there. Not where my wife and kid had burned themselves to death while I was out plowin’ the field. Fat lot of good it did me, plowin’ that field. I was just doin’ what my daddy taught me to do. Was his farm before it was mine. But by 1984 that didn’t matter too much. Everybody was gettin’ their produce from the grocery stores who got their stuff from the big industrial farms. Nobody gave a shit about their locally grown stuff anymore.
Took some doing, but I eventually sold the whole lot back to the bank. Sure enough. I reckon they were able to turn it around eventually. Probably turned it into a strip mall or somethin’ by now. Meantime, I just tied up my bindle and took off down the road. Turns out the first help wanted sign I saw was this county job diggin’ graves in this cemetery. I reckoned back then that somebody somewhere’s always gonna need to be buried, and I still had all the calluses on my hands and grit under my fingernails that was proof enough that I knew my way around the dirt. So I applied right then and there. They pretty much hired me then and there, too. Sure enough. I been diggin’ holes and fillin’ ‘em in ever since.
Now you might think a man would get creeped out by takin’ on a job like this. Not me, though. I seen my wife and my boy both lyin’ there in the ashes of that old house, charred black and flakin’ apart like the newspaper my daddy used to use to start the kindlin’ burnin’ in the old fireplace. I seen all that, and I think I cried my last tears right then and there. They was both too burned up to even put ‘em in a casket. Practically cremated, they was. Sure enough. You know what the old timers always said about that, right? If there ain’t no body in the ground, it can’t be raised up again come Judgment time. Neither one of ‘em deserved that fate. Sweetest mother and son you’d ever meet. But if the old timers are right, I reckon both of ‘em are lost forever. Haven’t wept for a soul since them days. Never since, because if a God whose best two creatures got turned to ashes by a stupid accident can’t see fit to bring ‘em back around when the roll is called up yonder, why should I bother to give a damn about anybody at all?
I can see it in your face. You think I resent what God did to me. Yeah, you damn right I do. Damn right. He’s got no business takin’ those two darlins out of this world and not lettin’ ‘em into the next one. God’s plan, the old preacher man’ll tell you. God’s meanness is what I think.
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